Careers Resources

Academic Job Interviews

Sep 07, 2023

What questions do you get asked during an academic job interview? I asked a senior colleague this question when I was a postdoc. I mentioned I had an upcoming interview. She told me not to worry and said she was rooting for me. Then she sent me an email with interview questions and set up a meeting to discuss my answers. Her kindness meant the world to me.

Today’s post is about paying that kindness forward. I’m sharing common interview questions for academic jobs. And on September 29 from 3:30 - 4:30pm EDT, I’m hosting a live session where we’ll discuss academic job interviews. Anyone who signs up will get access to the recording. I usually write about grants in this newsletter, but jobs are one way to secure support for your ideas. And that’s the true goal of this newsletter - helping you get support for your ideas.

Before I share the questions, a few caveats. These questions are not all-encompassing. And, every job is unique with different expectations. Sometimes you will be able to figure out what the expectations are before the interview, sometimes you find out during or after the interview. Finally, please know the academic job market has been bleak. How you fare on the job market says nothing about your worth or the quality of your ideas.

Common Questions (all compiled into this printable handout!)

  • Why did you apply to this position?
  • How does your background fit the specific qualities we are looking for? For example, if the search is for someone who understands trauma psychology, what background/training/research in trauma psychology do you bring to this position? Could you tell us about your experience working with children exposed to potentially traumatic events?
  • Where do you see your research heading in the next 5 years? 10 years? What are potential funders for your work?
  • Who might you collaborate with here?
  • Why are you seeking this type of position (e.g., tenure track, non-tenure track, teaching focused)?
  • What is your approach to teaching? What courses could you teach in our program?
  • How do you feel about _____ aspect of our university? For example, this is a liberal arts focused college. What are your thoughts on working in this type of environment?
  • What is your approach to mentoring? Advising?
  • What questions do you have for us?

Possible Questions You Could Ask

Often during interviews, the person you’re speaking with will run out of questions. You’ll end up needing to direct the rest of your interview time. Prepare your own questions so that you can determine the fit of this position to your goals. Here are some possible questions.

  • What are the requirements for tenure or promotion? What is the emphasis on research, teaching, and service? When are assistant professors reviewed for tenure? What percentage of assistant professors receive tenure? How are early career faculty supported in their development? Are there any mentoring programs available for new faculty?
  • How many classes are you expected to teach per semester? What are those classes? Are they undergraduate/graduate courses? Do people teach multiple sections of the same class?
  • What mechanisms are in place to allow undergraduates to become involved with research?
  • What chances do faculty have to mentor students?
  • Are there opportunities for collaboration with other faculty in the department? Faculty outside of the department? How is that viewed?
  • Are there internal grant competitions to support faculty research?


  • What are the goals of the department? Where do you see the department in 5-10 years?
  • What’s the department’s relationship with the community?
  • What are the strengths and areas for improvement for the department?
  • Is the department supportive of your research?
  • Is the university supportive of this department?
  • How would you describe the atmosphere here?
  • Is there collaboration across departments?
  • How are departmental decisions made?
  • What resources are available within the department (e.g., software)?
  • Is there a research office on campus to help faculty write and submit grants?
  • How would you describe work/life balance in this department?


  • What’s it like to live here?
  • Can you tell me a little bit about the relationship between the university and the town?
  • Where do faculty tend to live?

Best of luck to all of you with the job market. Don’t forget to grab the printable and sign up for the September 29th live session on interviews. Also, if you’re looking for guidance on job talks, check out this post.

If you know someone on the job market, would you mind forwarding this newsletter to them or posting about it on social? As always, thanks for reading and believing that scholars deserve support for incredible ideas.


Stay in touch: The Newsletter, Twitter, TikTok, and The Grant Writing Guide book.

P.S. My cousin bought my kids this Porg puppet. It’s the cutest stuffie - it makes Porg noises.

A porg.